From a Distance: On My Old Work

Over the last few years I have stepped far away from the idea of publishing my essays and poetry in manuscript form. From age fourteen when I started writing through age twenty-four, I really never thought much about getting anything I wrote published. When I was in college I dreamed of becoming a writer, and ultimately an English professor who would publish small books of poetry while writing book-length works on nineteenth-century British literature, my chosen field within the discipline, for publication to ensure tenure. Only after penning a thesis and finishing graduate school did I begin to grasp the amount of knowledge I had accrued over the previous six years in the areas of art, literature, philosophy and religion.

As a result, I started to write brief essays, very niche in their subjects, and gradually began to write about writing itself from the perspective of a poet. Eventually I began to publish some poems and essays in online magazines and journals, and a few years later compiled three different manuscripts of essays and a book of poetry. Then I just lost total interest in publishing any of this work shortly after. The reason being that I looked and saw how much time had passed since I had started writing these essays and how the older ones were clearly more academic and niche than the newer ones, and I also saw something else, something that also afflicted my perspective on my poetry as well.

The distance that had naturally grown since when I wrote the bulk of my poetry and older essays had caused me to see not just a lack of maturity in the writing, a voice different from the one I have now, but also the great big disconnect between myself and everything I had written. I realized I was no longer that person, plain and simple. The self that was compelled to write each of those poems and essays was momentary, driven by a passion, by a need to express my emotional state and impart knowledge, experiences related in poetic and/or essay form. In looking at these poems and essays I felt despair because they no longer resembled me; they cannot tell me who I am now, only who I once was. They are ghosts of past selves that I have left behind, in many, many instances of selves I have actually forgotten. They are fragments of selves I have been throughout the last two decades, that I recorded to empty my mind and heart onto the page so I could relieve the intensity of the ideas and passions, the desires and dreams I could share with no one else, for I was truly a child of solitude, and have been to this day. It seems, then, there is at least one self that is core to whom we are, that forges a foundational identity in us, and cannot be shed. For me it is the divine Self that manifests itself in a multiplicity of guises in each individual human being. But I digress.

So I have been disinterested in publishing my work in book form since I had this epiphany. But now I have been thinking on the situation again, and in rereading a few pages of poetry and essays, and though I even more strongly see the shadows of the many selves I once was in the language and imagery I use, I have come to the conclusion that though I no longer feel an emotional connection to the pieces doesn’t mean they do not have meaning, value, and purpose, something to say to others. I have to remember and hold on to the unyielding truth that I have long forgotten: Once the artist’s creative impulse is embodied in some tangible form, it becomes independent of the artist and is there for the world, for an audience and spectators, to discover and respond to; the artist no longer has control over the work of art. Art is about the audience, not the artist. The purpose of art is larger and grander than the artist; the artist is merely an instrument for passing the revolutionary fire of the spirit on to the hearts and minds of the multitude. As Oscar Wilde states in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” It is this response that art seeks—the raising of consciousness and the action taken in reaction to the self reaching a moment of enlightenment and deeper feeling and understanding.

With these truths having taken root once again inside me, I know I must move forward, and revise my essays and poetry where absolutely necessary and publish them in manuscript form. I must be the new Prometheus, the Romantic I have always professed myself to be for the past twenty years, and pass on the revolutionary fire, setting the hearts and minds of my readers ablaze with the passion and hunger for creation and enlightenment, for liberation and change, so that the corrupt, dying world can be annihilated and a new world born amid its ashes.

 

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